The chief of general staff of Iranâ€™s armed forces, Maj.Â Gen.Â Mohammad Bagheri, issued a fresh warning March 16 against Israel.
â€œIran has acquired what it takes to blow up the Zionist regime,â€ Bagheri said. He said the potentialÂ â€œremoval of the child-killing, malicious, fake regime from the political geography of the regionÂ is no illusion, but rather a genuine power that Iranian forces have gained with resolve and faith.â€
The statement was in apparent response a strong threat earlier this monthÂ by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who told Fox News that his country was updating plans to strike Iranâ€™s nuclear facilities. â€œWe must stand independently and we must defend ourselves by ourselves,â€ Gantz warned, saying this would be the case if the world is unable to curb the Iranian nuclear program, which IsraelÂ has long considered as the top existential threat to its security.
In a 2013 speech, IranianÂ Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali KhameneiÂ warned in response to Israeli threats of military strikes that the Israeli cities of Haifa and Tel Aviv would be razed. â€œThe same command has turned into a project and will be put into operation,â€ Defense Minister Amir HatamiÂ said March 7.
The departure of US President Donald Trump from the White House and the prospects of talks between Tehran and the Joe Biden administration have fueled worries among Israeli officials that Tel Avivâ€™s top ally could be soon engaging with its top adversary. The Biden White House, nevertheless, has publicly defended Israelâ€™s security, staying in close contact with Tel Aviv over any rapprochement with Tehran.
However,Â Israeli concerns have not been allayed.
Earlier this month, an Israeli officialÂ said Iran might be guilty of â€œenvironmental terrorismâ€Â following an oil spill in Israelâ€™s Mediterranean waters. WhileÂ the spill is thought to have come from a Libyan tanker, some Israeli officialsÂ put the onus on Iran as they believed the tanker was carrying Iranian oil to Syria.
Following Trumpâ€™s departure from office in January,Â Israel has intensified airstrikes in Syria, targeting military positions it says are run by pro-Iran forces. These airstrikes, despite having been conducted frequently during the past several years,Â have not yet triggered any direct response from the Islamic Republic.
In November, top Iranian nuclear scientist and missile expert Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was gunned down in an intricate ambushÂ outside the capital, Tehran. Israel neither denied nor confirmed its role in the killing. The Islamic Republic was quick to point the finger at Israel andÂ warned of a â€œsevere revengeâ€ â€” which has not yet been taken.